Pervasive robustness in biological systems

Nat Rev Genet. 2015 Aug;16(8):483-96. doi: 10.1038/nrg3949.


Robustness is characterized by the invariant expression of a phenotype in the face of a genetic and/or environmental perturbation. Although phenotypic variance is a central measure in the mapping of the genotype and environment to the phenotype in quantitative evolutionary genetics, robustness is also a key feature in systems biology, resulting from nonlinearities in quantitative relationships between upstream and downstream components. In this Review, we provide a synthesis of these two lines of investigation, converging on understanding how variation propagates across biological systems. We critically assess the recent proliferation of studies identifying robustness-conferring genes in the context of the nonlinearity in biological systems.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biological Evolution*
  • Environment*
  • Genetic Variation*
  • Models, Biological*
  • Phenotype*
  • Systems Biology / methods*